Elizabeth and Amy discuss LGBTQ+ legal protections with Nicholas Breiner, a Kentucky teacher who was fired when he came out as Bi; and Jennifer Nwachukwu and Aunna Dennis of the Lawyers’ Committe for Civil Rights Under Law.
I have been following Jan Steckel on social media for some time, so I was familiar with her poetry before reading Like Flesh Covers Bone. I’ve been delighted by many of her sharp observations of the world, sometimes optimistic and other times cynical. This new collection is one I am sure to read over and over, particularly a few of my favorites.
My top two are the titular poem, “Like Flesh Covers Bone,” and one called “Intersection.” In both cases, it is the way they reach into my soul and my personal experiences. The first knocked me emotionally flat the first time I read it. I gasped for breath, recalling my own first disillusionment as a newly graduated hospital nurse. The second had me nodding along with every line, feeling as though Steckel reached right into my heart and plucked out what was written there.
Every poem hits a high note, which is an accomplishment. Admittedly, I love poetry of all kinds, so I went into it with an already open mind. Even so, it’s rare that I am so drawn into the words that I don’t want to do anything except sit at the poet’s feet and bask in the beautiful lines. I couldn’t put it down.
I had the privilege of speaking with Steckel on the BiCast. I highly recommend listening and absorbing what she has to say about writing, life, and bisexuality. She reads a few of her poems, and it is a treasure to be able to hear them right from her lips.
There’s a little of everything in here: some relatable moments and feelings, political cynicism and activism, history lessons, heart-wrenching memories, and humor. What I always say with poetry is that not every verse is for every person, but in a collection everyone can find something. Reading through is worth it for every aha! moment, every instance of feeling seen and heard and understood.
And that, for me, is the heart of this book. As a writer, what I strive for is to create something that tells others, “You are not alone.” This is what Steckel has accomplished here, a work which reminds us that someone out there gets us, that what we feel is not wrong. These pages are like seeking a comforting hand in the dark and, once found, holding on for dear life. I challenge everyone reading to find themselves in at least one of the poems and meditate on the words.
Like Flesh Covers Bone is a book for any of the following people to enjoy: lovers of poetry; bisexual people; genderqueer and gender non-conforming people; readers who enjoy swearing in their poetry; anyone who would like to understand queerness better; humans.
For relatable moments, flashes of keen insight, and poetry at its finest, this gets 5/5 bi fives.
About the Author
Jan Steckel was a Harvard- and Yale-trained pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights who lives in Oakland, California.
Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia’s Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations.
Elizabeth speaks about the NYC Feminist Film Week program Vivid Glances with Patricia Silva, Guest Programmer; Film-maker Shelby Zoe Coley; performance artist, Edythe Woolley, a.k.a. Manly Stanley, and Lynnette McFadzen, President of BiNet USA. Proceeds from the Vivid Glances screening will benefit BiNet USA.
Patricia Silva is a media artist and instructor based in New York City, and the editor of Larker Anthology, an independent magazine celebrating the visual heritage of the bi+ spectrum. This month, on March 9th, Patricia is introducing Vivid Glances, a program of bi+ short films that they guest programmed for Anthology Film Archives as part of New York City’s Feminist Film Week. Patricia’s videos on bi+ visual culture have screened in film festivals from Brazil to Mongolia and earned a Jury Prize in Cannes in 2017, in addition to being screened at BFI Flare, Mix NYC Experimental Film Festival, Doc NYC, Queer Streifen, Scotland’s Queer International Film Festival, Rio Gender and Sexuality Film Festival, and at New York Feminist Film Week, among others. In 2017, two of their videos were projected onto the facade of New Museum, New York, in the “State of Emergency” projection by the Illuminator in 2018 and 2017.
From her website: Shelby Zoe Coley is a Black queer filmmaker based in New York City working across nonfiction
and documentary forms. A protegé of Sundance veteran Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy Merkins, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) and two-time Tribeca Film Festival producer Abou Farman (Vegas: A True Story, Icaros: A Vision), Shelby uses rhythm, portraiture, and the spoken word to explore intersections between queerness, race and creative practices––from documenting renowned lesbian performance troupe Split Britches, to producing a web series whose direct cinematic style endearingly earned it the title of “the hipster’s Grey Gardens.” Her work has been featured in renowned publications such as Afropunk, Slay TV and Curve Magazine. Most recently, Shelby’s short film “Manley Stanley Takes New York” about a British drag king won the Audience Choice Award for Best Women’s Short at Philadelphia Qflix and is nominated for the 2017 Iris Prize. Her short film on lesbian-feminist theatre troupe Split Britches premiered at the Provincetown Film Festival in June 2017. Shelby is a 2017-2018 recipient of the Puffin Foundation Grant for Video/Film.
Edythe Wooley is a performance artist with an interdisciplinary practice. Described as “Surreal and sassy as fuck” (Great SEXpectations) Edythe’s performances confuse the glamorous and the grotesque creating dreamlike, visceral and playfully political shows that dismantle misogynist society replacing it with Edythe’s queer imaginings.
Edythe’s drag persona, Manly Stanley won Man Up London. The Guardian wrote “ [he] brilliantly subverts extreme masculinity.” He has toured internationally, featured in award winning documentary Manly Stanley Takes New York (Shortlisted Iris Prize Cardiff, Audience Award Women’s Best Short Philadelphia QFlix) and performed alongside Ru Paul drag icon Sasha Velour (Eat, Sleep, Drag Repeat).
In 2011 Edythe co-founded devised theatre company The Wardrobe Ensemble (The National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic). Who are making a new play co-produced with Complicite. Edythe has performed with Raucous Collective and taught devised theatre on the Rose Bruford College MA co-directing the graduates’ degree show.
Edythe is currently doing an MFA at Bard College NY.
Lynnette McFadzen is the current President of BiNet USA. Lynnette is the former producer for this podcast. In February, she was awarded the 2018 Brenda Howard Memorial Award by PFLAG Queens, for her activism in the Bisexual+ community. In addition to all she is and does for the bi+ family, she is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, living in Portland, Oregon.
BiNet USA Vice President Faith Cheltenham speaks to Dr. Tangela Roberts, Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University about the intersectionality of sociology, psychology, and black bi+ lives.
The Murder of James Bird, Jr. Jasper, TX – This gruesome crime inspired current hate crime legislation in the United States. Content warning: violence, Graphic description of racially motivated – hate crime – murder.